TexasMac's Web Site
By Wayne McLerran
Updated 2/18/19

If you subscribe to the Shooting Sports USA, NRA’s competitive shooting
journal, you should be familiar with a monthly article titled “WHAT’S IN YOU
RANGE BAG”, listing the items well-know competitors across the shooting
sports have on hand to address issues during a match.  The list may include
common items such as aspirin, cleaning suppliers, hearing protection,
replacement parts, a few tools, energy bars, etc.  Most of the BPCR shooters I
know use a range box instead of a bag.  In an attempt to deal with an array of
problems the range box is filled with all manner of stuff.  The one item that
many forget to include is a broken shell extractor, aka split case extractor,
separated case extractor or ruptured case extractor.  See my related article  
Case Stretching & Separating in Black Powder Cartridge Rifles.  You
may never need a separated case extractor but when you do they’re
indispensible, possibly allowing you to continue the match.

Separated case extractors have been available since the late 19th century
around the time breech-loading brass-cased cartridges were developed.  
Modern extractors are made for many cartridges by several manufacturers
such as UTG/Leapers, Mauser, Marbles, FN, Hakim and others.  But none of
the current manufacturers I’m aware of make ones for common straight-wall
BPCR cartridges cases.  An ECHO brand extractor made to handle .45-70 case
head separations was sold by Buffalo Arms Co. (BACO) and Brownells but is
no longer available since W. J. Riebe the company that produced the extractor
went out of business a few years ago.  Brownells currently sells extractor, but I
don’t know who makes them and none are for common BPCR cartridges.  The
photo below displays the two vintage extractors made by Springfield Armory
for the Trapdoor (TD) .45-70 rifles which are still available today from some
gun parts suppliers such as Numrich Gun Part Corp. and on eBay.
Most if not all of the modern extractors are designed to handle case-head or
neck separations that do not extend into the bore.  The extractor is inserted into
the breach, fully chambered and extracted as one would a cartridge, hopefully
catching on the mouth or lip of the case and pulling out the broken section as
the extractor is extracted.  Modern extractors are typically made for cartridges
with shoulders and assume that if the case separates, it’s usually just forward
of the rim or head where the thick web section transitions to the thin case wall.  
Due to the case shoulder the broken case cannot move an appreciable distance
down the bore.  Here’s a Brownells’ YouTube video on the subject:

Although straight wall BPCR cases can certainly experience case-head
separations, the case can also separate in the neck region just behind or at the
base of the seated bullet and the separated section pulled some distance down
the bore by the bullet.  Therefore the extractor must be designed to reach the
broken section.  The Springfield TD extractors were designed to be forced into
the breach past the mouth or lip of the broken section or, if necessary, inserted
into the muzzle end of the barrel, then pushed towards and out of the breach
with a cleaning rod, hopefully catching the broken section in the process.  By
the way, the Springfield 1882 extractor is a 2-piece design.  The bottom
knurled section unscrews from the longer 3-prong section and is used to aid in
removing the separated case.  The outer design of the extractor is made to
match the 3-groove bore of a Springfield TD rifle and as such will not work in
modern .45-70 rifle bores.

I keep a Springfield Type 1 .45-70 extractors in my range box.  I was unable
find a .40 caliber extractor so I made a couple out of .38 Special brass (.357
Mag. brass should also work).  Turn the rim diameter down slightly on a lathe,
or belt sander if you don’t have a lathe, to about 0.002” smaller than the bore
diameter, so that the case can be inserted into the muzzle end of the bore head
first.  Push the modified case down the bore with a cleaning rod until it
contacts the lip of the separated case.  Drive out the extractor and separated
case with the cleaning rod.  No doubt this technique can be used for other
cartridge cases and bore diameters.

Depending on the situation, another technique that may work as well or better
than a separated case extractor is to use a short bronze bore brush slightly larger
than the bore diameter.  First determining how far down the bore the split
portion of the case is located.  With the brush screwed into a cleaning rod, push
the brush from the breech down the bore so that it’s position inside the
remaining case and then yank back on the cleaning rod. The bristles should lock
into the inside of the separated case and it pull it out.

And after posting this article on several BPCR forums, I received an excellent
recommendation I had not considered.  Just about any straight wall pistol case
with work to extract a separated case in many chamber diameters if the mouth of
the case is deformed a bit (squashed) to barely fit in the bore and inserted in the
muzzle mouth first.  The wide lip of the squashed case should catch the edge of
the separated case and can be driven with a cleaning rod.

Enterprising shooters and gunsmiths have used many methods to remove
stubborn separated cases.  One of the most common utilizes melted Cerrosafe,
the same material used for making chamber casts.  But none lend themselves
well to fixing the problem during matches.  So do yourself and/or your
shooting buddies a favor and add a case extractor or appropriate size bronze
bore brush to your shooting box.

Wishing you great shooting,